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Decompression scenarios in a new underground transportation system
Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine
BACKGROUND: The risks of a public exposure to a sudden decompression, until now, have been related to civil aviation and, at a lesser extent, to diving activities. However, engineers are currently planning the use of low pressure environments for underground transportation. This method has been proposed for the future Swissmetro, a high-speed underground train designed for inter-urban linking in Switzerland. HYPOTHESIS: The use of a low pressure environment in an underground public transportation system must be considered carefully regarding the decompression risks. Indeed, due to the enclosed environment, both decompression kinetics and safety measures may differ from aviation decompression cases. METHOD: A theoretical study of decompression risks has been conducted at an early stage of the Swissmetro project. A three-compartment theoretical model, based on the physics of fluids, has been implemented with flow processing software (Ithink 5.0). Simulations have been conducted in order to analyze "decompression scenarios" for a wide range of parameters, relevant in the context of the Swissmetro main study. RESULTS: Simulation results cover a wide range from slow to explosive decompression, depending on the simulation parameters. Not surprisingly, the leaking orifice area has a tremendous impact on barotraumatic effects, while the tunnel pressure may significantly affect both hypoxic and barotraumatic effects. Calculations have also shown that reducing the free space around the vehicle may mitigate significantly an accidental decompression. CONCLUSION: Numeric simulations are relevant to assess decompression risks in the future Swissmetro system. The decompression model has proven to be useful in assisting both design choices and safety management.
*Accidents Anoxia/prevention & control *Atmospheric Pressure Barotrauma/prevention & control *Decompression/adverse effects Humans Models, Theoretical *Railroads *Risk Assessment Switzerland
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